Article and photos by Musherf Alamri
Al Bint Dam is mostly in a good condition, even though approximately one-third of the dam has fallen. Some claim that it was built in the early Islamic era, and others say it was constructed in the third century B.C.
The Khaybar area, 200 km from Medina Al Munawarah City, has a number of pre-Islamic dams, with the most impressive being the Al Bint, meaning “a girl” in Arabic. The dam has a height of 30 meters and a length of 130 meters of standing structure. It is mostly in good condition, but approximately one-third of the dam has fallen.
The dam is surprisingly easy to access from Medina-Tabuk highway number 15. South of Al Thamad village, people can take a 1-km access road leading to a valley. At the end, visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the huge and ancient structure: Dhoum palms and acacias filling the valley, a small pond, and the landscape covered with lava rocks.
Shirley Kay, in 1977, noted that there are around two dozen ancient dams in the West of Saudi Arabia, clustered around Taif and Khaybar, with the formal having more. Al Bint Dam is the only curved one.
The valley in which the dam is located contains the Dhoum palms, acacias, and a pond. It has puzzled scholars how water was retrieved from the dam’s reservoir and where it was directed.
The texture and quality of the mortar used in Al Bint Dam is similar to Marib Dam, which was built by the Sabaean Kingdom. Interestingly, local tradition says that the dam was built by a prince from Yemen as a dowry for a girl, i.e., the name.
Legends about Origins
Local tradition says that the dam was built by a prince from Yemen as a dowry for a girl, i.e., the name.
Interestingly, the mortar, in terms of texture and quality, used in Al Ban Dam is similar to that used in the Marib Dam, which was built by the Sabaean Kingdom within Yemen, according to an article published in the 1979 edition of The Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. The 1978 edition of Aramco World stated that the Marib Dam was built in the seventh century B.C., and was maintained until the sixth century A.D.
Some claim that Al Bint Dam was built in the early Islamic era, and others say it was constructed in the third century B.C.
Historically, dams have enabled largescale agriculture in the arid regions. It has puzzled scholars how water was retrieved from Al Bint Dam’s reservoir and where was it channeled to.
Yet, Khaybar is a land of historical mysteries as the area contains the Khaybar historical village, and Mustatils, which are currently closed to tourism.
Mustatils: Mysterious structures visible from space
1,000 of these structures are located across 200,000 km2 in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, and they are mostly concentrated in Alula and Khaybar governorates. From animal remains found in one of the excavated Mustatils, scientists dated the structures to the sixth millennium B.C., potentially predating the pyramids. (Image from Google Map)
Researchers have concluded that these stone structures are architecturally complex, containing chambers, entranceways. Theories abound for the purposes behind building the Mustatils. (Image from Google Map)
A study published in the April edition of Antiquity, a peer-reviewed archaeology journal, provided insights on ancient, mysterious rock structures, commonly called Mustatils, which means “rectangle” in Arabic. When observed from the sky or space, the Mustatils form interesting geometric shapes, essentially composed of rectangles with angles usually capped by a circle.
Theories abound for the purposes of building the Mustatils, as there are 1,000 of these structures located across 200,000 km2 in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, and they are mostly concentrated in the Alula and Khaybar governorates, with the latter having more than the former.
From field work in the Alula and Khaybar governorates, researchers have concluded that these stone structures are architecturally complex, containing chambers and entranceways. From animal remains found in one of the excavated Mustatils, scientists dated the structures to the sixth millennium B.C., potentially predating the pyramids.
The Mustatils near Khaybar are not open to the public; however, people can explore the aerial views via Google maps or similar websites. After all, this is how the ancients, intentionally or not, made them to be perpetually admired.
— The Arabian Sun: June 23, 2021 | Vol. LXXVI, No. 24